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I interviewed for two positions with the same employer. Position A in a big city with work that suits me very well, position B in a remote and rural setting with work that would be more challenging and farther from my expertise. At the time that I interviewed for position B, I already had an offer for position A. At the end of the interview for position B, the interviewers asked me which position I would prefer if I received both offers. I answered honestly and directly: content-wise I would prefer A, location-wise I would prefer B.

I have Asperger's Syndrome and am poor at reading people, and I am also poor at being indirect or not entirely honest. I could have said "I'm not 100% sure", which would be true, but in reality I was ~99% sure. From the panel response, I wasn't sure if they actually expected an honest answer, and if I might have been expected to give a more diplomatic answer. In the end, I ended up being ranked 2nd for B. I wonder if the answer to the "which one do you prefer" question may have made a difference.

Would interviewers expect a direct and honest answer to the question "which position do you prefer" when I do prefer the other one, or would they rather expect a diplomatic answer?

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    Up to the individual interviewer but a professional would prefer the honesty – Kilisi Nov 11 '18 at 12:58
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    I concur with @Kilisi. Also, it's been my experience that being honest in interviews can only help to ensure you end up where you'll be happiest, even if it does end up costing you an offer or two along the way. – Steve-O Nov 11 '18 at 14:10
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This seems like a pretty straightforward question, no trick to it at all. You have qualified for both. You could have either. Which do you want? I can't imagine an answer that leads to "oh, haha, terrible answer, you can't have either, we were just goofing around!"

If you would be able to genuinely enjoy and benefit from both, there is nothing wrong with saying "both". If you would prefer one if only X, there is nothing wrong with saying that. For example, "I would prefer B as long as there's some sort of moving allowance to help me get set up in that remote place" or "I would prefer B assuming that there's a bit of remoteness premium in the salary. If they're the same salary I think I would have to take A." These sorts of answers can get a negotiation started.

If, after going through all this, you clearly and unequivocally prefer one over the other, this is the time to say so and save the other group the trouble of trying to land you. That should be appreciated by the interviewers.

You can't go back and change your answer, but it was kind of weak. You gave a better answer in your opening sentence here: "I like A because I know I can hit the ground running and start contributing right away. I also like B because it's a challenge that will help me grow, both professionally and on the personal side with having to live somewhere remote and perhaps difficult. I'd be really happy in either, to be honest." Some people might also have said "well, A gives me a chance to exercise my proven [strength #1] while B is more about my excellent [strength #2]" - a quick reminder of what's great about you is generally a good answer.

Did you "blow it"? Did they rank you second for B because you didn't make a passionate enough statement about why you wanted B? I rather doubt it, though you'll never know. I suggest you practice answering this and similar questions (why do you want this job, why should we choose you, etc) out loud so that you're ready next time around.

  • Yes, it wasn't a trick question. – Kilisi Nov 11 '18 at 14:07
  • Remoteness premium? For the same salary, one lives in a shoebox in A but in a 5-bedroom luxury farmhouse in the remote place, so the premium should be on A not B in my view :) – gerrit Nov 11 '18 at 17:26
  • Possibly. Or a jar of Cheez Whiz costs $29. cbc.ca/news/canada/north/… Once you define remote, you'll know which job needs a location salary bump. – Kate Gregory Nov 11 '18 at 17:30
  • @gerrit I think they meant having to move or have a long commute – Neuromancer Nov 11 '18 at 19:52

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